Columns > Published on July 20th, 2017

6 Reasons Aspiring Writers Should Act More Like Musicians

Writers are the worst. Actually, aspiring writers are the worst. Aspiring musicians, on the other hand, act like aspiring writers should. They have better attitudes, work ethics, and are even more fun to be around and interact with on Social Media. I have been a part of both worlds.

When music was more of a priority I was more in shape. When I made writing and editing my main focus, I gained weight, but I was a lot happier. I gotta say though, I miss hanging out with musicians. They tend to approach making art in a healthier way and have a more professional overall mindset—even though it is harder for musicians to make money than writers. I would love to see aspiring writers act more like musicians. The writing community would be better for it, and it would be less annoying to go on social media. So, aspiring writers, here are some tried and true ways to connect with your inner rock star.

They Practice

Musicians actually practice. They approach their art with the goal of getting better, instead of passively pontificating on Facebook about it. Whether it is by learning new songs, learning chords, or just fucking around—musicians hone their craft. It’s easier for musicians because they get to see the fruits of their labor. They make fewer mistakes, perfect new techniques, which makes their live show better. Writers might not see the benefit of practice take effect for years. They can grow as a writer but still get rejected by editors and agents. This makes it harder to gauge quality and growth. But it is the aspiring writer that continues to improve that has the greatest chance of breaking through.

Better Social Skills/Networking

You don’t see musicians bitching on social media about buddy systems, the horrors of networking, why other musicians suck, or how club owners and fans don’t understand their genius—actually that last one they say in private. No, musicians understand they need to get along with other musicians if they wanna play shows. Every gig I’ve ever played involved sharing the stage with other bands. I thought some of these bands were terrible and some thought my band was terrible, but we were respectful and professional anyway. I made sure to get along well with the sound guy and the booking agent. I made sure to get along with as many musicians as possible.

A musician also needs band members and needs to know how to work with them. So many aspiring writers I meet have this false idea that they must do it alone and keep their ‘genius’ pure. Musicians know that is bullshit. Playing with others who are better than you is the only way you actually get better and new make fans.  

Open Mics

Musicians practice in front of people to get better, and many times they don’t get paid for it. They aren’t playing for exposure. They go to open mics and play 2 to 4 songs to get a feel for where they are at with their craft. Writers can do this too, by blogging, writing reviews, or giving a sneak peek of their WIP to exposure sites. Yes, you should always get paid, but writing newsletters, blog posts, short columns, flash fiction, and sharing your WIP is the author’s equivalent of the open mic. 

They Seek Jobs and Gigs

Musicians will play non-glamorous gigs for good cash. Whether they are playing weddings, cover songs for a bar, or even doing studio work. If it pays they’ll play. Trust me, musicians would rather play their own songs, but musicians have to get paid so they can continue to play. Writers technically don’t have to pay any overhead: no practice space, no amp repairs, no gas to get to gigs. The one thing writing costs us is time. But if we seek writing jobs that actually pay us, we get to practice our craft, get money, and that money can be used to supplement our income. When we get paid to write we have more time to write, or we can use it to invest in classes, cons, or hiring an editor.   

They Understand The Business & Marketing Side

Writers often struggle with the push and pull between making money and being true to their vision. Musicians can’t afford to do that. If they record something they need to figure out the best distribution site, they have to make flyers for shows, and they understand they need to bring a certain amount of people or the owner won’t invite them back. They don’t like the business aspects either, but they accept them and educate themselves. Writers need to be the same way. They should understand book distribution, agents, freelancing, and/or the self-publishing market. Being well-versed in the business and marketing side will not only help a writer find an audience, it will help them find the right publicist and agent too.

They Are Not Above Craft

Yes, there are experimental musicians and noise artists, but if they haven’t learned an instrument and other musicians don’t take them seriously, the majority of listeners won’t either. Musicians respect their craft, because they have no choice. If you can’t play an instrument then you can’t get on stage or record anything. The bands that get paying gigs and record records will practice to a metronome, they will continually try to master their instrument; they understand they have to be excellent at their craft or they don't have a shot. Many writers do not do this; they just wait for inspiration and then complain about their book. Musicians, study, they play, they even learn other instruments. They seek craft instead of hiding from it. Writers need to approach storytelling and writing like a musician.

About the author

Christoph Paul is the Managing Editor and owner of CLASH Books, who have published over 60 books and have been covered by NPR, Poets & Writers, Rolling Stone, Believer Magazine, Oprah Magazine, The Observer, Fangoria, and Publisher's Weekly. The press has had books translated into Spanish, French, and Italian. He has been editing books in almost every genre for over a decade. As an author, he won a humor award and had viral cult success under a pen name. He is the lead singer and bass player of the rock band The Dionysus Effect, who have received positive reviews in Loudwire, EARMILK, and Red Rock Magazine. He sometimes writes songs about the books he publishes because even artists are inspired by their day jobs. Follow him on Twitter @christophpaul_ @clashbooks @dionysuseffect.

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